About 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, resulting in nights of unrestful sleep. But that’s not all — every one of them is also at an increased risk for serious health problems. Even worse, as many as 80% of people with sleep apnea don’t know they have it — or how to treat it.
At Dr. Taylor’s Family Dental Center in Waterford, Michigan, Marvin Taylor, DDS, and his team help sleep apnea patients relieve their symptoms so they can enjoy restorative sleep and reduce those health risks. If you have sleep apnea, here’s why getting treatment is so critically important for your health.
Sleep apnea: Causes and symptoms
Sleep apnea can be divided into three “types.”
Obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type, occurring when the tissues in your throat relax and sag into your airway, preventing you from breathing normally during sleep. OSA can interrupt your breathing dozens of times every night, typically during the deep phase of sleep.
Central sleep apnea
Central sleep apnea happens when your brain doesn’t send the signals that are required to control your breathing during sleep. Delays in these signals mean you stop breathing for brief periods throughout sleep.
Complex sleep apnea
People with complex sleep apnea have characteristics of both OSA and central sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea tends to be more common among people who:
- Are older
- Are overweight
- Are male
- Have narrow necks
- Use sedatives
- Have a family history of OSA
- Have medical conditions like heart failure or high blood pressure
Many people don’t realize they have OSA because the interruptions are so slight, they don’t cause wakefulness.
Most people associate sleep apnea with loud snoring, but that’s a misconception. While snoring and sleep apnea often go hand-in-hand, other issues can cause snoring, too — and not everyone who has sleep apnea will develop a snoring habit.
Aside from snoring, other common symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Waking from sleep while gasping for air or choking
- Breathing interruptions throughout the night (reported by a sleep partner)
- Morning headaches
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Moodiness and irritability
- Difficulty paying attention during the day
- Problems with your sleep patterns
Sleep apnea symptoms can be irritating and even interfere with your quality of life. Without treatment, sleep apnea can also cause far more serious health problems.
Medical dangers of sleep apnea
The health risks associated with sleep apnea are well documented. Like other chronic conditions, prompt treatment is the key to lowering these risks:
Multiple sleep interruptions put excess strain on your heart and blood vessels. That puts you at an increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, along with heart attack, stroke, and arrhythmia.
Sleep apnea is also associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, a collection of health issues including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and belly fat. Metabolic syndrome is linked with higher risks of heart disease and other serious medical issues.
Type 2 diabetes
Untreated sleep apnea raises your risks for type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Interrupted breathing also means your kidneys receive less oxygen during sleep.
Being sleepy during the day isn’t just annoying. It can interfere with your performance at work or in school and cause problems with social relationships, too. Without restful sleep, you’re more likely to suffer from depression or other mood disorders, and your risk of accidents increases dramatically.
When your body doesn’t get enough restful sleep, your immune system can suffer. That means you can get sick easier with flu, colds, and other infections.
If your sleep apnea causes snoring or gasping for breath, there’s a good chance your sleep partner isn’t getting a good night’s sleep, either. That’s not good for your relationship — and it’s not good for your partner’s overall health and wellness.
Reduce your risk of sleep apnea-related problems
If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea or you suspect you might have it, Dr. Taylor can help. The first step toward reducing sleep apnea-related health risks is to schedule an evaluation, so we can develop a treatment plan just for you. To schedule your visit, call the office or book an appointment online today.